We have travelled 3 times to Spain visiting Barcelona, Madrid, Sevilla, Cadiz, Salamanca, Alicante and more. On this upcoming visit we thought we would center on Malaga or Torremolinos/Benalmadena area. We like to travel by train or bus but have rented a car also. My concern is what I just read on a recent topic on this site about Benalmadena not being a good choice. We are interested in side trips to Gibraltar, Ronda, etc. but would love to hear from others about what they would recommend. We are not 'pool people' or beach lovers but enjoy a sea view. Any suggestions would be appreciated. We particularly love the old more than the new! If we are to be centered in one spot for a month rather than a week here and there, it would have to be relatively flat..,not a hill town! Thanks!
Andalucía is quite large, and it is not overly blessed with express trains. At the moment the really speedy trains are limited to the Madrid-Cordoba-Seville Corridor, with onward decent service through Jerez to Cadiz. They are working on an AVE link to Granada but it is still in testing. What I'm saying here is that if you stay in one spot for a month, especially without a car but even with one, you will not be able to cover all the highlights of Andalucía unless you want to spend an ungodly amount of time inside a moving vehicle.
I happen to be planning my own trip to Andalucía at the moment and have researched rail times between a lot of city pairs to figure out a logical itinerary. I have only scratched the surface on bus links. I'm including some of my findings here in case they help you. Remember that this is just the time you'd spend sitting on the train or bus; it doesn't include the time to get from your lodgings to the station. If you opt to stay in a town with no rail service and first have to take a bus to get to the nearest rail station, your day-trips will be far less efficient.
Another thing to be aware of is that when you get away from the major cities and are making train connections, the travel time may be quite different from A to B than from B to A.
By train from Madrid:
Linares (for Baeza and Ubeda) 3:20
By train from Cordoba:
Linares (for Baeza and Ubeda) 1:30
By train from Seville:
By train from Malaga:
Linares (for Baeza and Ubeda) 2:40
By train from Ronda:
Linares (for Baeza and Ubeda) 3:30
By train from Granada:
Linares (for Baeza and Ubeda) 3:30
By bus from Malaga:
Nerja 1:00 to 1:50 (most around 1:30) http://mynerja.com/about/nerja-bus-timetables/
It is often possible to find online bus schedules relatively easily by Googling something like Bus Ronda to Arcos de la Frontera. It that doesn't work you can try Rome2Rio.com and keep digging down until you find the name of the appropriate bus company, and usually also a link to its website. Unfortunately, a fair number of the Spanish bus websites do not have an English option.
If you want a sea view on the Costa Del Sol then you'll have to accept that you're going to struggle finding old rather than new. The coast is way over developed and is frankly unattractive in most places however you don't have to go far to experience the more traditional Spain.
Torremolinos and Benalmadena will offer nothing for you. As I've mentioned on the previous post these are towns geared towards cheap package holidays in the summer and during that time is an area I'd avoid at all costs. In February it will be very quiet with little to do.
I would look more towards somewhere like Marbella. It has an attractive and compact old town, it is equally as built up as the rest of the coast but retains a more upscale feel than Benalmadena. It's also closer to Gibraltar, Ronda and the foodie heaven of Benahavis.
We have a timeshare in Estepona which is a bit further west from Marbella and I really like the place. It is quieter and feels less built up. It has a lovely old town and the main plaza is a fantastic place to eat especially on a sunny day in February where you'll be surrounded by trees groaning under the weight of oranges. Here's an article that sums up Estepona quite nicely:
I liked Malaga well enough but I don't think there's much there for more than 2-3 days. I liked Jerez a bit less than Malaga, but it is a good base for day trips to Cadiz by train and Arcos by bus, even to Sevilla. (yes, I know that you've been to some before). With a car it's about the same distance to Gibraltar as is Malaga. I can't imagine spending more than a week in either place.
If you want to spend about a week exploring the pueblos blancos Ronda is a good base. It's mostly flat except for the hike down the gorge, and it's big enough for a choice of restaurants. There are more sights, including some fun, interesting quirky museums than Jerez, maybe more than Malaga. While the Alhambra and the Albaicin are quite hilly/steep, the rest of Granada is relatively flat. Both Granada and Ronda are about 2 hour drives from Malaga and from each other.
Except for Barcelona, I can't think of anywhere you've been that I would want to spend much more than a week. Well, maybe Madrid because of the day trips and that I could spend happily spend days at the Prado and the Thyssen.
Thank you all for your replies. The time you each took to respond to my question truly amazes me and I appreciate it very much.
My feeling now is that a car is probably needed if we are to see the area. I've been looking into Estepona. This might be a very good choice for us and I am in search of a nice centrally located apartment, within our price range! For sightseeing, we are happy enough to spend a night or two here and there. Since we have already spent 3 separate months visiting the more well known places, we are looking forward to a slower pace and enjoying just where we are. Hopefully Estepona will be warmer than a Canadian winter and more interesting than a Florida condo!
Thanks again for your replies.